Olmert Aides Chide J'lem Mayor Over Decision to Halt Work

Olmert's associates yesterday criticized Mayor Uri Lupolianski's announcement Sunday night that work on the Mugrabi bridge would be put on hold, calling the mayor's decision "bizarre." They said Lupolianski had not consulted Olmert or Jerusalem Affairs Minister Jacob Edery before releasing the statement, and said they thought the mayor was trying to steal the limelight once he realized Attorney General Menachem Mazuz would call for a change to the plans.

The archaeological work is to continue, as per the cabinet decision Sunday. Olmert was asked to approve Lupolianski's decision only after it was published, and as of last night, he had not done so.

Since the collapse of the Mugrabi ramp in 2004, experts in security, engineering and antiquities have been called upon to come up with alternatives, in discussions coordinated by the Prime Minister's Office but there was no direct flow of information between the prime minister and defense minister's bureaus. The Prime Minister's Office said it believes the defense minister's bureau was being constantly updated on the discussions by the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service.

Western Wall officials are said to have been pressing for a solution, since the temporary bridge had been limiting access to the women's section of the Wall's prayer plaza. The fact that safety engineers had declared the bridge unsafe also pushed the decision ahead. Security officials initially urged an alternative that did not involve destruction or excavation of the Mugrabi ascent, such as reinforcing the existing structure. Only after they realized that an alternative solution would be complex and also involve excavation, were they persuaded to agree to the plan.